Author’s Diary for November 20, 2020

Author's Diary - Update for the Week of November 20, 2020

(Don’t forget to contribute to our Patreon campaign or join us on the Radio Free Covenant Discord server! Don’t forget to tune in to the Radio Free Covenant podcast every Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific) on our Twitch page and get a summary of the game rules!)

Featured Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We’ve finished three chapters in Covenant’s playtest rules this week! Find out more below the fold.

Here’s what we want to talk about this week:

  • The chapters that we finished this week
  • The purposes of these chapters
  • Our progress on Covenant’s playtest rules
  • How to become a playtester


We have completed a total of three chapters:

  • Basics of Play: How to play Covenant
  • Character Creation: How to create a character
  • Running Scenes: How to run and, just as importantly, end scenes

Here’s what we completed in the Basics of Play chapter this week:

  • Sizes:
    • You can assign a numerical size to anything or anyone based on its longest dimension.
    • By changing your stance and taking cover, your character can change xir apparent size to opponents and become harder to hit.
    • Your character can also attack specific parts of an opponent’s body. These body parts are harder to hit, but successful attacks on them impose disadvantages on the target.
  • Tech Levels:
    • Both characters and items can have a numerical tech level assigned to them, ranging from 1 (muscle-powered technology) to 5 (technology indistinguishable from magic).
    • Your character’s tech level is determined by where xi comes from, not xir species. Xi can also gain additional tech levels by buying tech level traits.
    • You suffer disadvantages if you use items from outside your tech level.
    • You might also take additional damage if you’re hit by a weapon whose tech level is higher or lower than your armor’s tech level.
  • Tokens:
    • Tokens are the equivalent of experience points in Covenant.
    • Your character gains tokens at the end of each chapter in the game, whether or not your character fought or even defeated any enemies.
    • Your character can also use tokens as brownie points or hero points to automatically succeed at bids, heal all your character’s scene damage, and so on.

The Character Creation chapter has the following:

  • Limitations: The limitations for creating characters in the playtest rules (characters can currently only be tach level 4 humans from the Covenant)
  • Choosing Your Character’s Ties:
    • Your character starts with three ties, which you can choose.
    • Each tie gives you 100 discipline.
  • Spending Your Character’s Tokens:
    • Your character starts with 10 tokens.
    • Each token can be spent on one of the following:
      • One trait
      • One ability
      • One item
      • One item feature
  • Buying and Upgrading Items:
    • You can spend your character’s discipline to buy or craft new items or upgrade existing ones.
    • Your character’s discipline recharges at the start of the story.
  • Future Additions: Additions that you can expect in future versions of the playtest rules, including:
    • New traits
    • New ability classifications
    • MMO-style ability “trees”

Finally, the Running a Scene chapter has the following:

  • What Scenes Are: The difference between scenes and downtime (scenes are where the action happens, while downtime is how your character gets to and then prepares for the next scene)
  • Taking Turns:
    • What Turns Are:
      • Each character gets 1 turn during a scene.
      • During your character’s turn, xi can make unlimited bids, limited only by xir traits, items, and discipline.
      • Before and after your character’s turn, xi can only make bids as the defender in opposed bids.
    • Determining Initiative:
      • First, the Force Majeure separates the characters in the scene into sides.
      • Each side gets a turn.
      • When a side gets a turn, then one of the character on this side takes a turn.
      • Repeat this until every character gets one turn.
      • Start the next round.
    • Effects of Surprise:
      • If your character is surprised, you can only perform one bid on your turn and suffer other penalties.
      • Your character is no longer surprised after the scene‘s first round.
  • Ending a Scene:
    • Victory Conditions: If a side fulfills all of its victory conditions, then it “wins” the scene and can end the scene.
    • Loss Conditions: If a side fulfills any of its loss conditions, then it “loses” and should either retreat or surrender.
  • Retreating from a Scene: Your character can retreat from a scene by stepping off the map, but can’t rejoin the scene or xir group if xi does.


Here’s why we’re writing these chapters:

  • Basics of Play: We’ve lavished so much time on the Basics of Play chapter because it’s a diceless system being released in a market dominated by dice-throwing games. We have to make sure that the players and Force Majeure understand the basics of the game before we move on to more specialized rules.
  • Character Creation: We put the character creation section here because we thought the players would want to know how the game worked before they started creating characters. This section is also full of terms that don’t show up in other roleplaying games, like “ties”, “traits” and “tokens”. We were afraid this chapter might be gibberish if the players didn’t read the Basics of Play chapter first.
  • Running a Scene: Two-thirds of this chapter is either how to end a scene or how to retreat from it. We did that because fights don’t usually end in one side being completely annihilated in the real world. This also gives players the option for strategies like hit-and-run attacks or outmaneuvering opponents into losing situations.


We have completed a total of 68 pages. As we suspected, our production sped up after the completion of the Basics of Play chapter, and we’re now hoping to complete a chapter every day or two. If we can keep that up rate up, then we should complete the playtest rules before the end of the year.

Remember, our deadline for the playtest rules is Feb. 28, 2021. If we can complete the playtest rules by the end of the year, that will give us two months to edit and polish it before we distribute it to our playtesters.


Do you want to become a playtester? Just drop us a line at, and we’ll put you on the list when the rules are finished at the end of February.

That’s about for now. Talk to you next week!

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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